Brick proves sticking point for Hancock Inn

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/9/2022 11:14:03 AM

The Hancock Historic District Commission held its sixth meeting regarding 33 Main Street Realty LLC’s proposal for outdoor changes at the Hancock Inn on Monday, and while most changes were approved, the use of brick to replace a wooden fence remained a sticking point.

The group purchased the inn from Marcia and Jarvis Coffin for $1.15 million, and at least $2 million will be spent on improvements, according to Kerri Landry, 33 Main Street LLC spokesperson. The inn is scheduled to reopen in the summer of 2023.

Attorney Mark Fernald, representing 33 Main Street Realty, said, “[The Hancock Historic District Commission] doesn’t like brick,” adding that he doesn’t know whether his client wants to change the current plan for the fence.

“We did make progress and I’m happy for that,” he said.

During the meeting, the commission discussed 33 Main Street LLC’s proposal for the 8-foot-high brick fence, a pergola, a blue stone patio and a 4 1/2-foot high brick wall around the patio. The commission held up each proposed feature against various town ordinances that included rules regarding the scale and size in relation to existing surroundings, project impact and how new features would align with the historic character of town.

After some discussion regarding historical accuracy of including a pergola, the blue stone patio, along with the pergola and the wall around the patio, were approved. But the 8-foot tall wall that would shield kitchen equipment was not approved because of questions commission members had regarding the historical integrity of the new design – in particular the use of brick – which would be seen from the road.

“Despite there being five brick houses in Hancock, there aren’t any brick walls per se in the town of Hancock,” commission member Sarah Bauhan said. “No brick fences. I spoke to an architectural historian who shook his head and said [brick is] completely inappropriate for the Town of Hancock and the historic district. It just doesn’t fit.”

Fernald responded by asking how many blank wooden walls were in the district.

“It’s subjective,” he said. “What makes a blank wooden wall more appropriate than a blank brick wall?”

Bauhan said placing a brick wall in the proposed location would be an eyesore.

“It’s not an appropriate material for a wall or a fence in this district,” she said.

Commission Chair Nancy Macalaster reminded members and 33 Main Street Realty representatives that the commission is mandated to abide by the ordinance.

“Its impact doesn’t preserve and enhance the historical, architectural and cultural qualities of the District. It’s not whether we think it’s ugly,” she said.

Fernald reminded the board that the kitchen vents on the building – which the current fence shields – are not a historical feature.

“Any talk of preserving the wall because it’s historical doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “It’s a functional feature of the modern age, not as a historical feature.”

Macalaster said that it’s about impact rather than preservation.

“It’s about maintaining character and culture,” she said.

The commission oversees Hancock’s Historic District, formed by the town in 1975, and reviews changes to exteriors, structures or features of buildings within the district’s boundaries, according to the town website. The district spans the core of town from the western edge of Pine Ridge Cemetery east through a portion of Bennington Road just before reaching Hancock Elementary School. Buildings within the district include the inn, town library and Town Hall.

Dan Systo, the builder for 33 Main Street Realty, said “It’s about material at the end of the day.”

“If I put up brick, you’d all freak out but if it’s wood it would pass. It’s the brick feature where I’m struggling,” he said. “It fits with the town when I read your bylaws. The way it’s written, as long as [brick] meets that criteria of meeting the historic look, which is in the town, it should work.”

The board did not approve the 8-foot high brick wall and will meet again to discuss the issue on Nov. 22.


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